Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Best Opening Themes of Spring 2011

Yes, this is part of the promo video for Maria Holic Alive's "Runrunriru Ranranrara".
Where will it rank?

With the end of another (crowded) anime season upon us, finally just about everything can be put into place. Most shows are ending, but some have another season to go, complete with changes to the opening and ending songs and animation, so it's about time AniMaybe gets to ranking these things! The ending themes have been compiled and ranked before, but the sheer number of opening themes makes their ranking a bit more complex. Here are the Top 25 Opening Themes for the Spring 2011 anime season (along with what we felt had to be the worst).

(Once again, all of the CD images are straight from the CD Japan website.)

Last Place. "Hoshikaze no Horoscope" ("Stellar Wind Horoscope") - Nomico
(Bridge to the Starry Skies OP)

Not only was Bridge to the Starry Skies hard to get behind enthusiastically, but the opening theme really took things in an awkward direction, both in audio and video production. The song from Nomico is a bit grating to listen, the singer's voice more helium than oxygen, and the key changes that develop from splicing edits to the song make the transitions torturous. Possibly the hardest to welcome is the montage of female characters looking dreamily at the audience as they turn to the camera; why is Kazuma's younger brother one of them?!

25. "Scarlet Knight" - Nana Mizuki
(Dog Days OP)

Well, the song itself isn't all that bad, as Nana Mizuki certainly has the voice for drama, but the major strike against this opening theme is the lack of innovation in the animation. Yes, we get introductions to practically every soldier in the dog army, and that's pretty much it. There's nothing that graphically shakes the audience enough to keep them from falling asleep. 

24. "Spread Wings" - Aki Misato
(We, Without Wings OP)

Honestly, guys—what the hell is it with the flying islands in the opening themes this year?! We're seeing them in Dog Days, The World God Only Knows (albeit digitally) and even the Naruto "Lovers" opening, only for them to pop up in the end of the OreTsuba opening. The animation does start out decent, the four main heroines searching for their counterparts in a Tokyo district, only for the minor characters to be presented as if they were posing for pictures. A bit dull to merely showcase your characters this way; besides, aren't they all being presented in the episodes with their names affixed to them, as if we're all being graded on this?

23. "Bowl Man" - Ikzo
(Hyouge Mono OP)

While I do like this jazzed-up approach to a show that is so simple in its design, the only problem with it is that the light R&B approach had been used by another samurai-era show, Samurai Champloo, for their ending theme (Minmi, "Shiki no Uta"). The song, by itself, would be an easy listen, and it's good for livening up Hyouge Mono, but it probably wouldn't appeal to many younger fans.

22. "Tenshi no Clover" ("Angel's Clover") - Aimi
(Astarotte's Toy! OP)

I suppose this is the portion of the rankings where the songs aren't overly impressive, but not bad enough to leave out. It's hard to truly get the gist of Astarotte's Toy! by watching the opening sequence, but I suppose the song is average enough to not turn viewers away too badly. It only hurts badly when I watch the credits roll, only to be reminded that Akiyuki Shinbô helped construct the storyboard. Duuuude.

21. "Sekai de Ichiban Koishiteru" ("Love You The Most in the World") - Shûhei Kita
(Sekai-ichi Hatsukoi OP)

Definitely good pace and energy with this song, especially for something that tries to exaggerate the overall pace and energy of the show itself. Kita has a voice that reminds me a lot of Porno Graffitti's lead singer, Akihito Okano, definitely a plus in my book, but there could be more to the animation that merely intimate moments between the characters. The situations just feel a little out of place with the song.

20. "Kakko Warui I Love You!" ("You're So Uncool, I Love You") - French Kiss
(Sket Dance OP)

I can't say the AKB48 sensation is something I have been able to monitor over the past few years, but I'm assuming the unit breaks up into factions like Morning Musume has done so many times. While the music is catchy, French Kiss doesn't really sing with much inspiration to their voices. At least the animation provides a decent introduction to the stampede of characters that one comes across in Sket Dance.

19. "Hana no Iro" ("The Color of Flowers") - nano.RIPE
(Hanasaku Iroha OP)

At first, I must admit that I liked the flow of this song with the opening animation for Hanasaku Iroha—nano.RIPE does capture the sporadic business of a traditional Japanese inn with their soft start and quick pace near the end. After a few episodes, however, I am willing to welcome a better song to the show. While "Hana no Iro" has the tempo of Whiteberry's "Natsu Matsuri" and vocals that sound like Judy and Mary, it does get a little cumbersome to hear by the sixth episode. I also have to question why nano.RIPE also sings other inserts—it's a little bit of overkill for a TV series to showcase one band.

18. "Fight Together" - Namie Amuro
(One Piece OP)

There have been fourteen opening themes used in the One Piece TV series (if you count the three versions of "We Are!"), and I still don't think that they will get any better musically than The Babystars' "Hikari e" ("To The Light"). I am willing to give the benefit of the doubt to Amuro for making a thump-thump pop/disco song work for this opening—a blend of flashbacks and character poses—but the extra-long length for the opening brings down the appreciation for the track. Ninety seconds is just right for TV-sized opening; two-and-a-half minutes seems too long.

17. "Core Pride" - UVERworld
(Blue Exorcist OP)

While Blue Exorcist has been a decent show for the season, there has been a little gusto missing from the shows, and this is something that could be remedied by a little more from the opening. UVERworld does give some impact from their rap-rock-jazz(?) opening, but there's still some room for improvement, as the animation actually gives the feeling that it's the end of the show with our main hero Rin walking with the academy in the background and laying in the rain in defeat. The bluesy saxophone doesn't really seem to fit either.

16. "Tamashii Meramera Itchô-do!" ("Burning Soul At A Billion Degrees!") - Masaaki Endô and the Moonriders
(Dororon Enma-kun Merameera OP)

Yes, that Masaaki Endô, singer of tokusatsu inserts and JAM Project concerts, is singing the opening theme to Dororon Enma-kun Merameera. It's a little different than the opening to the original series in 1973, sung by Chinatsu Nakayama, but it's great to hear him break out of the shell he had formed with all of his Power Ranger and Yu-Gi-Oh 5D songs. There's also some good motion with the animation, something that you can't duplicate for the original series.

15. "Whole New World God Only Knows" - Oratorio The World God Only Knows
(The World God Only Knows II OP)

I've been impressed with some of the animation used for the openings to both seasons of TWGOK, and while the songs have been a little random and off-kilter from sudden key changes and tempo interruptions, the general feel of the opening is a good one. Unlike most harem shows, TWGOK doesn't flood the senses with too large of a harem, so an opening that doesn't focus on the heroines already has a positive point in my book.

14. "Runrunriru Ranranrara" - Yû Kobayashi /
"Mōsō Senshi Miyamae Kanako" ("Delusional Warrior Kanako Miyamae") - Tomokazu Sugita
(Maria Holic Alive OP)

It's hard to debate the parody overdrive that Maria Holic has hit in its second official season. The content of the actual show is one thing, but SHAFT rolls out variant opening themes and animations like they were Marvel Comics covers. It's impossible to choose one (a brilliant giant-robot homage to Mazinger Z) over the other (a mix between Hans Christian Anderson and Lady Gaga), so why not choose both? It's just too bad the show's working too hard to be a parody.

13. "Morning Arch" - Marina Kawano
(A-Channel OP)

I have to hand it to the folks at Studio Gokumi for putting together an opening that is so tight in its utter randomness. The song from Marina Kawano is peppy like a race to catch the school bus, but the animation's unique ways of introducing the production staff takes the cake. Movie formats and fonts vary at the speed of light and do a terrific job selling a show that, as of the fourth episode, really has no selling point.

12. "Chase The Light!" - Fear, and Loathing in Las Vegas
(Kaiji Season 2 OP)

Zawa zawa. While the opening song to the first season of Kaiji, "The Future Is In Our Hands" by Redbourn Cherries, had more of a punk feel to it, it hardly addressed the overall debt that would haunt our protagonist for years. The second opening theme, a mix of anger and Autotune over screeching synthesizer, accurately establishes Kaiji's position and the games he must play for absolution and revenge. Zaa waa.

11. "Rulebook wo Wasurechae" ("Forget the Rulebook") - ULTRA-PRISM feat. the Shiratama Junior High Soft Tennis Club
(Softenni OP)

For some reason, ULTRA-PRISM songs just make my head bounce like a tetherball in a cyclone. They made Shinryaku Ika-Musume's opening so bubbly that I almost overdosed on the carbonation, and even the Rio Rainbow Gate! ending theme "Miracle Chance" was better than expected. In fact, Xebec actually makes the opening fun to watch with in-jokes that are revealed later in the season. Dare I say it? Soft tennis actually looks fun to play, as long as it comes with the musical accompaniment.

10. "Orion wo Nazoru" ("Tracing Over Orion") - Unison Square Garden
(Tiger & Bunny OP)

Even though an upbeat song doesn't necessarily dictate the mirth within a show, a hero comedy like Tiger & Bunny needs that sort of upbeat song that gives the story a happy tone to it. If anything, Unison Square Garden provide a song that is a lot like what L'Arc-en-Ciel's "Heaven's Drive" was to GTO, both melodically and symbolically. The brisk melody matches well with the profiles of the heroes, perhaps even becoming a bit more like a jingle to match all of the product placement we see.

9. "Guts Guts!!" - Akira Kushida
(Toriko OP)

"Guts" has been a convenient word that has found its way into Japanese jargon, as it gives a feel of power in both languages (if one was to eat robustly, it would be done with the onomatopoeic word "gatsu-gatsu"). Using it for the Toriko opening and coupling it with the powerful voice of Akira Kushida (known for his tokusatsu show openings and the songs for Kinnikuman) definitely gives a sense of strength and power. The song and animation are remarkably well-drafted, but the one argument that keeps the opening from being a classic would be that the use of oversized gorillas and dragons seems to mimic the gargantuan creatures you'd see in a Dragon Ball or One Piece opening. Go with what Shônen Jump brings you, I suppose.

8. "Pandemic!!" - Team Nekocan feat. Chihiro Yonekura
(Yondemasu yo, Azazel-san OP)

Okay, so the staff hasn't exactly broken the bank to supply Yondemasu yo, Azazel-san with a long-enough opening theme (or an ending theme, for that matter), but the short sweetness of this para-para candidate and the "cuddly" demons from the show dancing about ludicrously makes this opening a total trip. It may be a little over-the-top with the five-second boobies-n'-fecal-matter background, but every crude comedy should have a crude opening.

7. "OS-Uchûjin" ("OS-Alien") - Erio wa Kamatte-chan
(Denpa Onna to Seishun Otoko OP)

At first, I wasn't really thrilled with the beep-beep keyboard notes and Erio's squeaky voice belting out this song, but eccentricity is something that gets my attention for these openings. Bending the laws of physics certainly helps—Makoto is arguing with an oversized Erio, as if she had been snooping in the White Rabbit's house in Wonderland, only to be floating in zero-gravity with the other characters the next moment. The vibrant colors used for design also grab visual attention and don't let go until the final note.

6. "Hacking to the Gate" - Kanako Itô
(Steins;Gate OP)

This opening has taken some time to grow on me, as there is hardly any emotion on the characters' faces throughout this digital time-shuffle, but the song alone has probably helped its case. There's a good sense of unease from the minor key for the song and Kanako Itô's pointed singing style. The afterimages of the characters and the time-paradox imagery, heavy on butterflies and watch gears, make this an interesting opening, even if the characters mostly convey motion by just standing there.

5. "Matoryoshka" - NICO Touches the Walls
([C] - Control OP)

Admittedly, this opening has both a terrific concept and awkward execution. Computer graphics deconstruct the yen, dollar, euro, and the phantom currency known as "Midas Money" to display cut-out collages of each country's history, but the characters are introduced with an unoriginal "running-into-battle" motif, something that fits with the idea of the anime but lacks identity. Regardless of this, the music from NICO Touches the Walls provides some solid rock punch, and lead singer Tatsuya Mitsumura can certainly hit notes accurately. Provide a better way to submit the characters, and you've got the best opening of the season.

4. "Aoi Shiori" ("Blue Bookmark") - Galileo Galilei
(AnoHana OP)

I'm still in amazement that noitaminA continues to put out memorable openings and closings with songs that capture the feel of their shows. [C] - Control is definitely the action genre, brimming with rock and electronica, while AnoHana's opening does a terrific job with a reminiscent route. Galileo Galilei's windswept music capitalizes on plucked strings, snapped cymbal strikes and Yûki Ozaki's quiet lyrics, and the nostalgia springing from each character's memories really bring a smile to one's face, if not also a lump in the back of one's throat from the lingering sadness of not being able to relive those moments. Simple and clean song, simple and clean animation.

3. "One Reason" - DWB feat. fade
(Deadman Wonderland OP)

Granted, there aren't many horror shows this spring, but of all of the openings to the shows this season, only Deadman Wonderland's provides an accurate concept of fear. Give credit where credit is due, as the  animation and soundtrack to the opening are brilliant matches for each other. The splashes of blood red color and flickering font changes provide an eerie setting, but the tip of the hat goes to the scene where jailed criminals march in chains and mascot heads, all while the conniving Tamaki plays puppeteer from above.

Surprisingly, fade provides a solid nu-metal song in English, rough around the edges with clear vocals from lead singer Jon Underdown. Probably even more surprising is the fact this is a Japanese band helmed by an American, but that their discography is comprised of both English and Japanese songs. Definite crossover potential, especially with a song of this impact.

2. "Tôgenkyô Alien" ("Alien Fairyland") - serial TV drama
(Gintama' OP)

I was so terribly torn regarding the rankings for the best and second-best openings for the season that I was almost tempted to put a #1 and #1A. Once again, we have a band who has performed an opening for a Shônen Jump show ("Kopipe", the fourth Naruto opening), but this is no slouch of a song. Serial TV Drama provides energy and rock blended with the feel of a bouncing parade and omikoshi procession ("aa-sore!"), so the song interlocks well with the cavalcade of comic misfit characters and a flashback to a bloody battlefield. The song is addicting to listen to and fits the comedy-drama to a T.

1. "Hyadain Kakakata☆Kataomoi-C" ("O-o-o-o☆one-sided Love of Hyadain-C") - Hyadain
(My Ordinary Life OP)

The seventh episode of My Ordinary Life started with no music or opening animation at all, as it went straight into the show with unspectacular credits. I was almost violently angry for not seeing the opening montage, and that perhaps spoke volumes about how much I enjoy the opening. The song is more synthetic than first imagined, as the head-bopping chime of bells and horns are all produced with a synthesizer, and both the male and female leads are "sung" by Ken'ichi Maeyamada, the brains behind Hyadain and the lyricist/composer for both the opening and ending themes.

So why is this opening better than the others? The start and finish to the animation is pretty much the obvious reason, the characters introduced in a flurry of zoom-in transitions, but I also like how well the animation was constructed around the song itself. The main (and secondary) school characters lip-sync to the music, while the half-tempo interlude presents a peaceful day of laundry at the Shinonome Laboratory. Considering that Maeyamada had composed many mixes of video game music for Nico Nico Douga before—check out some of the "Western show" songs for Nintendo games—it's great to hear (and see) how he puts a spin to an anime that's already been spun from its own self-parody.

1 comment:

  1. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lvJDK6zcasM